China to try 30 in business paper corruption case

Shanghai (AFP) - China will try 30 people tied to a massive media corruption case involving one of the country's best known financial newspapers, the 21st Century Business Herald, including former executives, Shanghai prosecutors said Thursday.

The group of 30 -- far higher than the previous number given by state media for those detained by police -- face charges of extortion, blackmail and "forced" transactions, according to a statement.

They include former chairman of 21st Century Media Co., Shen Hao, as well as former officials from its website and related publications, it said.

Newspaper staff and others colluded to demand payments for positive news from listed firms and prominent companies, while publishing "malicious" attacks on those who refused to cooperate, state media has previously said.

The suspects also forced companies to place adverts or sign cooperation agreements for high fees, reports said. Those involved with the case included employees of public relations firms.

Shanghai prosecutors last Friday passed the case to a city court to formally launch prosecution, the statement said, but gave no further details.

State media said last September that eight suspects from the newspaper and two from public relations firms had been detained by police.

The practice of paying media to run -- or not to run -- stories is believed to be widespread in China.

Although media in China is state-controlled, the government has pushed organisations to operate on more commercial terms by selling advertising and attracting readers with appealing content.

The 21st Century Business Herald was set up in 2001 as part of the Nanfang Media Group, which is owned by the Guangdong provincial government.